Rail: Ballan service
I have an issue to raise with the Minister for Public Transport, and the action I seek is for the minister to address issues associated with Ballan travellers on V/Line services. In particular I relate an issue which was brought to my attention last week involving a number of school students from Ballan who often use V/Line services to get home, particularly if they have attended an after-school activity, and the experience of one of these students in particular was brought to my attention.
I was contacted last week by the mother of a 15-year-old girl who attends school in Ballarat. The mother happens to work in Melbourne, so the child necessarily uses public transport to get to and from school. However, last week the 15-year-old went to Ballarat station after an after-school activity and wanted to catch the 5.15 p.m.
V/Line service to Ballan, which happens to be a coach service rather than a rail service. I am advised that the student arrived at the station in plenty of time for the 5.15 service. She purchased her ticket, and only at the time of actually boarding the coach were she and other travellers advised that the coach service did not have room for all of the prospective travellers who had purchased their tickets.
The driver then advised the travellers that those travelling all the way to Melbourne would get priority. They could get on the bus, and there was a bit of room left so those travelling to Bacchus Marsh were able to get on the bus. But even though they were school students, those travelling to Ballan were all told they had to wait behind for the next service, which would be somewhere around 6 o’clock, when it was already dark.
This mother obviously was very concerned when her daughter rang and said, ‘I can’t catch the service. They’ve told me there’s no room’. The mother was able to organise an alternative travel option with a friend who she knew to be in Ballarat rather than having her daughter wait on the station platform after dark, where even though there have been promises from this government there are no protective services officers at the moment.
However, clearly this is a matter of concern, and I hope the minister will be able to take action and make changes so that there is a rail service instead of a coach, or at least that there is plenty of room for all of the prospective travellers. But if there is not, this issue of prioritising according to whether you are going to Melbourne and treating Ballan travellers as second-class citizens seems to me to be very strange.
I would have thought that in fact students would get greater priority or at the very least that it would have been a first-in-best-dressed situation, but I would like to have seen all travellers get onto the service or be advised when buying a ticket that there might be a problem. I hope the minister will take action. Of course there are many Ballan travellers who commute to Melbourne who are already aggrieved that often they have to stand up the whole way.